Legendary gay rights activist Rodney Croome rang the Star Observer an hour after Crikey published its “Best and Worst” list. He had some issues with it, questioning why we referred to Tasmania’s partnerships registry as “watered down” and Senator Guy Barnett as “Tasmanian”. But he also had a word of warning: The “Best” column would, he suggested, have ruffled some feathers, particularly those of the people who missed out.

Turns out he was right, as usual.

Democrat Andrew Bartlett rightfully asked about the omission of his party from the “Best” pollies list. The Democrats were the main reason I described the list as “incomplete”. A list of 20 politicians is not going to include everyone who has ever said a good or bad thing about the gays.

Bartlett’s suggestion that the Democrats were “left off the list” is inaccurate, as Natasha Stott-Despoja was a worthy inclusion. But he is correct in stating the Dems record on gay rights is impressive, important and historically significant. Gay politics trainspotters that we are at the Star, we would rate their body of work in gay law reform as the best in the country.

However, as much as it pains the many members of the gay and lesbian community who have voted for them in the past, the party is currently suffering a serious identity crisis. As Christian Kerr wrote in Crikey yesterday, the Dems are “tracking poorly, have no money, the Greens look like taking [their] Senate spots and members are glum.” Once they sort that out, I’m sure the party will return to its proper place near the top of the list.

An unexpectedly positive response came from Andrew Steinwedel, a gay Liberal Party member of 20 years, who wrote of his pride at having three Liberals in the top ten, and suggested South Australia’s Michelle Lensink as another. Incidentally, Lensink was mentioned in the “Worst” inclusion of Mike Rann as “The Liberal” currently trying to get overdue law reform passed in South Australia.

Otherwise, Steinwedel was thrilled with the “Best” list. No mention, strangely, of the fact that six of the ten “Worst” pollies were from the Coalition.

Meantime, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon took the list as an opportunity to canvass a vote from another inclusion on our “Best” list, new ALP MLC Penny Sharpe. Sharpe has a chance, Rhiannon says, to support a long-standing Greens bill to get rid of some discriminatory loopholes in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

Peter Fray

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